UTA partners with Northwestern University on quantum communications

Universities to exchange students, research ideas to drive 21st-century quantum applications

Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022 • Linsey Retcofsky : Contact


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A University of Texas at Arlington electrical engineering professor will lead a National Science Foundation-funded project to expand research and education in quantum information science and engineering.

Michael Vasilyev, a professor of electrical engineering, is the principal investigator in an $800,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) project titled “Quantum information exchange over spatially-multimode and multi-core optical fibers.” UT Arlington will team with Northwestern University on the project, which is part of NSF’s Expanding Capacity in Quantum Information Science and Engineering (ExpandQISE) program.

“Future quantum computers will be able to perform certain tasks, like database search optimization or code breaking, much faster than classical computers,” said Vasilyev, who has been at UTA since 2003. “Our work focuses on quantum communications links that lay down the foundation for interconnecting such future quantum computers. These links are based on quantum properties of light particles (photons) and can also be used for secure information exchange that is completely impossible to eavesdrop on.”

Vasilyev said the capacity of a single quantum communications link is limited by light loss in optical fiber.

“We can improve this capacity by taking advantage of spatial degrees of freedom of light,” he said. “For example, we can make beams of different shapes co-propagate in the fiber. This effectively makes multiple quantum communication links over the same optical fiber.”

One purpose of the ExpandQISE program is securing a talent pipeline in a field where workforce needs of industry, government and academia continue to outgrow the available talent. Vasilyev said the highly competitive grant shows NSF’s willingness to expand the study of quantum information technology to universities that are aspiring to become major players in the field.

“I am excited about this opportunity to help UTA build the capacity for quantum information research and education in the North Texas area,” said Prem Kumar, the project’s co-investigator from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “UT Arlington already has a world-class research program in classical optical communications. We are looking forward to the student exchanges between our two institutions to share the classical and quantum expertise and to train renaissance engineers who would be well-prepared to drive 21st-century quantum applications.”

Diana Huffaker, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, said the grant represents an opportunity for UTA to expand its reach nationally and internationally.

“This grant builds the strong foundation for UTA’s future research and education in quantum information field,” Huffaker said. “We’re looking forward to partnering with Northwestern and seeing what projects are furthered by this.”

In a separate NSF grant, UTA is also partnering with Northwestern’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center to develop new functional materials for energy and semiconductor applications.

- Written by Herb Booth, Office of Marketing, Messaging, and Engagement